By / Jun 24

Through my work with Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, I have shared publicly what it’s like to be offered a medically necessary abortion at 25 weeks pregnant. And I have shared what it’s like to walk with my sister through her grief over an abortion she experienced alone.

I have had a specific vantage point to observe some of the many issues involved. The choice to abort never occurs in a vacuum, and if Christians want to have a true impact on the issue of abortion, we must carefully work to eliminate why abortion seems the best choice, not merely make it an illegal choice.

How local churches can respond

The Supreme Court handed down a monumental decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the disastrous precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey. For the pro-life movement, this ruling is the culmination of nearly 50 years of focused work to overturn Roe and protect the unborn.

Our gospel witness demands we prepare to rise to this occasion as a watching world looks to see how churches will respond now that the laws they’ve so vocally called for and supported are becoming a reality.

The good news is there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The crisis pregnancy ministries that have worked tirelessly before now continue to be the boots on the ground. They are strategic partners for churches wanting to do more. Churches are uniquely capable and equipped to be able to help alleviate much of the reasons women believe abortion is the best option. With more churches now considering and looking to be a positive resource for women, there are several paths forward:

Expanding network currency. Churches wanting to be more involved in crisis pregnancy ministries can begin by partnering with established organizations in great need of more resources. This could mean financial support (which is sorely needed), but it could also mean helping connect the passions, interests, and skills of the church members. Although resources are not one-size-fits-all, most crisis pregnancy centers share a need for help with the following:

  • Mental health
  • Language and communication (especially bilingual skills)
  • Sewing skills (for blankets, socks, etc.)
  • Childcare opportunities (VBS/Parent’s night out/stay & plays could all be great resources for pregnancy centers to share with clients).
  • GED/ESL opportunities
  • Print supplies/office resources

Help make easier on-ramps to existing ministries. The problem is not a lack of resources; it is connecting the right resources with the people who need them. Churches are crucial ministry partners for many pregnancy centers. This is an opportunity for churches to strengthen their communication efforts with pregnancy ministries. It is especially helpful to provide welcoming points of entrance into the church beyond a Sunday morning service, which can be threatening and overwhelming to a woman facing a difficult situation. If your church has childcare nights, or evening sporting events, or other community/relationship-building events, those would be an ideal opportunity to invite people who are in need of community and Christ’s love right now.

Support the boots on the ground: Oswald Chambers once said, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”  Pray for your local pregnancy centers, and let them know. These ministries have been and will continue to serve, love, and minister to women and children, but they are also on the receiving end of much anger, misinformation, and hostility as the Dobbs case has worked its way through the legal system. Many of them are tired and in need of encouragement. While this case continues to attract national attention, our centers need our vocal prayer and support.

Some helpful guiding principles

Roe v. Wade has finally been overturned. As we move into a post-Roe world, the principles of Micah help point us in the right direction. “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

Act justly: As believers, we confidently stand behind the truth of the dignity and worth of the unborn. Throughout Scripture we see God’s calling upon his people to care for and protect the marginalized and the vulnerable. This calling to justice extends to the unborn. We care deeply about their protection and believe to act justly means to advocate for their dignity and rights.

Love kindness: There is plenty of space in Christianity for conviction and compassion. It is good to have conviction and passion for the vulnerable among us. But that should never stand apart from people who are hurting and also need compassion — to listen to their cries and needs — and follow the example of James 2 by showing our faith through our works. We must creatively pool resources to meet the moment of need in the mother’s life. The banning of abortion will not undo the host of issues that culminate in the choice to abort. A Christian response ought to be marked by true kindness.

Walk humbly: Pride is never a good look in the life of the believer. As we craft our responses and attitudes toward this issue, a haughty spirit over the victory against abortion is not the way forward. We celebrate truth and justice, but we also weep with those who weep. The celebration of progress within the pro-life cause should spur us on to love and good deeds. If the fruit of our celebration is the humiliation and pain of others, we have done it incorrectly. It is crucial to remember that while laws may help regulate and provide protection for the vulnerable, the causes which lead up to abortion will still be with us. In humility, we ought to ask God for wisdom on how to help end abortion by working to alleviate it as the seemingly better choice.

As we move forward into a post-Roe world, may God help us exemplify the truth and grace of Jesus and uphold the dignity of every life we encounter.

By / Mar 2

As anticipation builds and news coverage increases, both sides of the abortion debate are sounding the alarm that the recognized right to life in our country could be drastically changed as the Supreme Court reconsiders the harmful “viability standard” set in Roe v. Wade and affirmed in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. This challenge to the existing law comes from a Mississippi abortion case called Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization

The Dobbs case is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to affirm life, shift abortion jurisprudence, and send the question of abortion back to the states. For the pro-life movement, this Mississippi abortion case could be the culmination of nearly 50 years of focused work to overturn Roe and protect the unborn. 

What is the Mississippi abortion case about?

In Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court is reviewing a Mississippi law titled the “Gestational Age Act” that prohibits abortions after 15 weeks’ gestation, except in a medical emergency and in cases of severe fetal abnormality. This law replaces the ‘viability standard’ created by Roe. The court is examining whether pre-viability restrictions on elective abortions are unconstitutional. 

In Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court admitted that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting unborn human life, but concluded that that interest did not become compelling until viability, because at that point the unborn child “has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” However, the choice of viability as the point before which a state may not forbid abortion is entirely arbitrary. Even the author of Roe and two authors of Casey’s three-justice plurality have admitted this. When the “viability standard” was initially created in 1973, viability was around 28 weeks, but it is now around 21 weeks. The viability line will keep moving as our modern medicine continues to improve. No Supreme Court decision has ever provided a principled justification for the viability standard.

The Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization on Dec. 1, 2021. Now that oral arguments are completed, the court will spend the next few months researching and deliberating about this case. The final decision on what could be a watershed case in American jurisprudence will likely come at the end of next June as the court closes its term. 

Why is the viability standard so important?

The viability standard creates two classes of unborn children — those who are legally protected after viability, and those who aren’t. The Constitution does not create a right to an abortion of an unborn child before viability or at any other stage of pregnancy. The U.S. is one of only seven nations across the globe that allow abortion for any reason after 20 weeks’ gestation. With each passing day, especially in light of our technological age and the use of the ultrasound, more and more people recognize preborn lives are worthy of protection.

Why is this case important? 

This Mississippi abortion case provides another chance for the court to come to that same conclusion and affirm the fundamental right to life. Even if the Supreme Court overturns the disastrous precedents set in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, abortion would not become illegal overnight. Instead, each state would then be free to set their own laws banning or allowing abortion. If Roe is overturned, an estimated 26 states will implement complete bans on abortion. This decision, rather than marking the end of the pro-life movement, will instead launch a new chapter as advocates turn their attention to protecting life in statehouses across the country and stopping the proliferation of chemical abortions.

If abortion becomes illegal in many states, many more vulnerable women and their preborn babies will need help and support. Christians must be ready to stand in the gap and provide love and care. Together, we must work toward a day when abortion is not only illegal but also unthinkable. Southern Baptists have long pleaded the case for America to recognize the inherent dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors, because Scripture tells us that every single life has innate dignity, worth, and value.

By / Feb 10

Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 10, 2022—The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has donated an ultrasound machine to Gate Pregnancy Resource Center, located at Cabarrus Dream Center in Concord, N.C., which is a centralized location that exists to unite local organizations in providing the underserved with assistance and resources pertaining to alleviation of poverty, homelessness, drug abuse/addiction, family crises, human trafficking, behavioral health challenges and housing disparity. 

The center will hold a dedication ceremony Tuesday, Feb. 15 from 12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. EST at the clinic’s location at 280 Concord Pkwy, suite 119, Concord, NC 28027.

The training course for the unit took place in October 2021 and will be placed at the clinic’s second location serving the Concord, N.C. community. 

“The work of the Gate Pregnancy Resource Center is invaluable to the state of North Carolina,” said Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives. “We are thankful for the ways Cabarrus Dream Center provides holistic care for the most vulnerable in their community. With this ultrasound placement, more women will be empowered to choose life. This work is precious and we are grateful to God that we are one step further in the process to make abortion unthinkable and unnecessary in our day.”

Gate Pregnancy Resource Center is celebrating more than 15 years serving the Harrisburg area as a pregnancy education center. In 2021, the executive director, Kathy Bridge, transitioned the center to a medical clinic and opened a second location to serve the Concord community. Gate PRC offers:  

  • Free pregnancy testing;
  • Ultrasounds;
  • Prenatal vitamins;
  • Bi-weekly coaching. 

“We are grateful to the Psalm 139 Project for providing an ultrasound machine to our newest location at the Cabarrus Dream Center in Concord, North Carolina,” said Kathy Bridge, executive director of Gate Pregnancy Resource Center. “Being a part of the Dream Center and offering our services to an underserved community is Gate Pregnancy Resource Center’s greatest desire. Our mission is to bring hope, help and healing to our clients, and the gift of an ultrasound machine provides us with the means to do just that.”

Todd Unzicker, executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, and Brian Upshaw, associate executive director of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, will be attending the dedication ceremony along with other ERLC staff members.

One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Learn more at

By / Feb 2

Nashville, Tenn., Feb. 2, 2022—The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has donated an ultrasound machine to Citrus Pregnancy Center. There will be a dedication ceremony Friday, Feb. 4 from 4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. EST at the clinic’s location at 3185 East Thomas St., Inverness, FL, 34453.

Training for the ultrasound machine took place in October 2021. ERLC staff will be in attendance along with Baptist associational leaders and local pastors. 

“Citrus Pregnancy Center has been a faithful advocate for vulnerable women and preborn children for many years,” said Elizabeth Graham, ERLC’s vice president of operations and life initiatives. “We are grateful for the Lord’s provision in allowing us to place an ultrasound machine in this part of Florida. Our hope is that many women will be compelled to choose life when they see their baby in the womb. The opportunity to place this machine is one more step toward the goal of standing for life and making abortion unthinkable and unnecessary in the world.”

Citrus Pregnancy Center was founded in 1999 by a group of Baptist pastors who saw a need in the community. The center has a close connection to Nature Coast Baptist Association and is supported by numerous churches throughout the area. Citrus has two locations on opposite ends of the county. The main office is located in Inverness while Crystal River serves as the  second location. The clinic serves about 550 clients a year, and the Inverness location offers services such as: 

  • Pregnancy testing; 
  • OB sonograms; 
  • Parenting training;
  • Fatherhood program;
  • Abortion recovery;
  • Adoption education and referrals; and
  • Counseling. 

“The sonogram machine the Psalm 139 Project placed in our center is amazing,” said Barb Gosa, executive director of Citrus Pregnancy Center. “The entire placement process went so smooth and was such a blessing. The time our nurses got to spend with their trainer/installer equipped them to have the confidence they needed to use this new machine to its full potential and not allow the newness of it to be a distraction in giving the women we see their full attention.”

One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Learn more at

By / Jan 28

Pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) are local, nonprofit organizations that provide support and information to women and men faced with making decisions about an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. The history of the modern pregnancy resource center movement began in the the late 1960s, as several states began to remove legal restrictions on abortion. 

How pregnancy resource centers began 

In response to this shift toward legalization, Robert J. Pearson, a building contractor and Catholic pro-life advocate, established a foundation in 1969 to assist in the opening of volunteer-run Pregnancy Problem Centers across Hawaii. The centers offered free pregnancy testing, counseling, and some emergency and financial help for women considering abortion. 

Pearson also wrote and published a 93-page manual called, How to Start and Operate Your Own Pro-Life Outreach Crisis Pregnancy Center. While well-intended, the manual has been used to discredit the PRC movement because of its use of deceptive practices, such as providing misleading answers that give the impression such centers provide abortions. 

The first network of pregnancy centers was founded in 1968 in Toronto, Ontario, under the name Birthright in Canada. These centers soon spread to the United States as Birthright International. Other groups sprung up, and some of the first modern crisis pregnancy centers began helping women in California in 1968. Within three years there were 70 centers, many of which joined together to form Alternatives to Abortion (later known as Heartbeat International). In 1975, two years after the nationwide legalization of abortion, theologian Harold O. J. Brown formed the Christian Action Council, a group which would later adopt the name Care Net. Care Net opened its first PRC in 1983. 

In 1994 the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) was established to provide legal counsel to PRCs. Today, Heartbeat International, Care Net, and NIFLA are the three major PRC networks, operating nearly 2,000 pregnancy centers.

The use of ultrasound machines

Ultrasound machines were invented in the 1960s, but became more widespread for obstetrical use in the 1980s. NIFLA was the first of the national pregnancy center organizations to promote acquisition of ultrasound technology by the centers and to provide trainings in its use by certified and qualified personnel. Since the launch of its Institute in Limited Obstetric Ultrasound in 1998, NIFLA has trained over 4,500 pregnancy center healthcare professionals and administrators in the legal and medical “how to’s” of obstetric ultrasound. 

Today, about half of PRCs in America offer ultrasound services to the women they serve at little or no cost. In 2010 alone, close to 230,000 ultrasounds were performed at PRCs. The use of ultrasounds helps to provide confirmation of pregnancy, verifies the developing baby’s gestational age, and provides essential information that can provide a new perspective for women thinking about having an abortion. As Barbara Shoun says, “Ultrasound technology is proving to be the most convincing piece of evidence the pro-life community has to offer young women who think their unborn children aren’t babies.”

(Through the Psalm 139 Project, the ERLC seeks to save lives by donating ultrasound machines to PRCs.)

Sources of funding 

Although most PRCs have been funded through donations, additional sources began in the 1990s. 

In 1996, Choose Life, Inc. was formed in Florida with the idea to use license plate sales to fund PRCs. By 2018, the Choose Life license plate was available in 32 states and Washington, D.C., and the plates had raised over $28 million in those states for the causes of life and adoption. 

During this same period, President George W. Bush included support of pregnancy resource centers as part of his administration’s pro-life agenda. In 2002, President Bush told March for Life participants, “A generous society values all human life . . .  and that is why my administration opposes partial-birth abortion and public funding for abortion; why we support teen abstinence and crisis pregnancy programs . . .” 

Prior to the Bush administration, only a few PRCs received federal funding. However, between 2001 through 2005, over $30 million in federal funds was provided to more than 50 PRCs across the country. This funding was discontinued under President Obama, but President Trump awarded a $1.7 million family planning grant to a group that runs PRCs. 

Spreading the gospel

PRCs serve more than 2.3 million people each year, providing such services as pregnancy tests, ultrasound and medical services, abstinence education, options consulting and education, and parenting and childbirth classes. But many also aim to share the gospel with their clients. For instance, Care Net reports that over the past seven years, more than 1.2 million people heard the gospel at one of their centers. 

By / Dec 22

Standing for life has always been a core part of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission. 

The Psalm 139 Project is our most tangible life initiative, designed to make people aware of the life-saving potential of ultrasound technology in crisis pregnancy situations and to provide pregnancy centers with ultrasound equipment and training as they minister to abortion-vulnerable women. 

Since the inception of the Psalm 139 Project, we have placed 30 machines, and we are already well on our way to our goal of placing 50 ultrasound machines by January 2023 — the moment marking 50 years since the disastrous Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision was handed down.

During the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in June 2021, the Psalm 139 Project was the focal point of our booth in the Exhibition Hall. We were able to bring the same ultrasound machines, approved through an extensive vetting process, that we place in health clinics. Our manufacturing partner even sent a representative to our exhibit to demonstrate both a 3D ultrasound machine and a mobile ultrasound machine. This allowed messengers and other attendees at SBC to experience what women see on the machines when viewing their child for the first time. Studies show — and our own clinics’ data proves — women in crisis pregnancy centers are far more likely to choose life when they see their baby on an ultrasound machine. That result is why we believe so deeply in the work of the Psalm 139 Project. 

People visiting our booth at SBC were not only able to see an ultrasound machine but were encouraged to offer a message of hope and encouragement directly to a woman in a crisis pregnancy situation through the use of handwritten notes. Over 1,500 people stopped by our booth to write touching messages that will be given to women in pregnancy resource centers where we place ultrasound machines.

The motivation behind our life work comes from the gospel. In fact, one of the most effective ways we appeal to consciences is by explaining the imago Dei and the inherent worth that truth gives to every preborn child. We do this both here at home and abroad.

In 2019, we announced our intentions to place the first-ever privately controlled ultrasound machine in Northern Ireland –– a region in the United Kingdom that has been one of the most pro-life areas in the world –– after an effort was made by their national government to decriminalize abortion services. 

After being delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, the Psalm 139 Project placed its first international ultrasound machine in October 2021 with Hope House, a Christian ministry seeking to love both lives of the mother and baby in pregnancy and beyond. A group from the ERLC, including Elizabeth Graham, ERLC vice president of operations and life initiatives, personally delivered the ultrasound machine to Hope House to begin training their staff for this life-saving work. 

Similarly, we have sought to draw attention to other contexts where the abortion industry is gaining ground. For example, we pointed out Argentina has become the first Latin American country to legalize abortion. President Fernández, in explaining his support for the law, referred to abortion as a mere “interruption” of a pregnancy –– an appallingly simple description of ending a child’s life. 

Catherine Parks, in an article for the ERLC, states it well, “​​There is nothing caring about telling a woman in a difficult situation that ending her child’s life is the way to ensure her survival and that of any other children she may have. We must seek to protect life at every stage.”

As we look ahead to 2022 and then to the 50 year anniversary of Roe, we are more committed than ever to standing for life. And that means, by God’s grace, seeking to save preborn lives, caring for vulnerable mothers, and proclaiming in the public square the unswerving proclamation of the dignity of life found in God’s Word. 

Pro-life pregnancy resource centers (PRCs) are often the only thing standing between a vulnerable woman and an abortion. Thanks to your support and the ongoing generosity of Southern Baptists, the ERLC is able to place lifesaving ultrasound machines in PRCs, which allow them to serve vulnerable women who would otherwise go to Planned Parenthood. We’ve already placed 25 lifesaving machines, and we’re working to place 25 more by January 2023.

Will you help us reach our goal of placing 25 more machines in the next year? Requests for these lifesaving machines continue to pour in from around the country, and our team can’t keep up without your help.

Click here to learn how you can partner with us in this work.

By / Dec 10

Nashville, Tenn., Dec. 10, 2021—The Psalm 139 Project, a pro-life ministry of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has donated two ultrasound machines to pregnancy resource centers in Tennessee as a part of the state’s grant to place seven ultrasound machines during the 2021-2022 fiscal year. The machines in Athens and Dunlap were donated to the centers in August 2021 and are the third and fourth of the seven centers to have a dedication service.

Full Circle Medical Center for Women, Athens, Tenn.

Full Circle Medical Center for Women in Athens, Tenn. will host a dedication ceremony, Dec. 14 from 10:00-11:30 a.m. EST at their location, 510 Old Riceville Rd, Athens, Tenn., 37303. 

Full Circle Medical Center for Women has been in operation for over 22 years and began as a ministry of First Baptist Athens in 1998. They have since become a parachurch organization for the McMinn County area, partnering with the local churches with the ultimate goal of pointing women and families to Christ. The center sees approximately 250 clients per year. 

“The impact that the ERLC will have on our community through the placement of this machine is immeasurable because we can’t put a price tag on life,” said Julie Ladd, executive director for Full Circle Medical Center for Women. “At Full Circle, we believe that our patients should receive the very best care, and this brand new technology will help us serve them at the level they deserve. We believe that providing quality care is integral to women continuing to come through our doors. We are beyond grateful to be chosen for this grant by the ERLC.”

ERLC representatives will be present at the dedication service along with local pastors and Baptist associational leaders

Next Step Resources Center, Dunlap, Tenn.

Next Step Resources Center in Dunlap, Tenn. will host a dedication ceremony, Dec. 15 from 9:00-10:30 a.m. CST at their location, 1817 Old York Hwy E., Dunlap, TN 37327.

Next Step Resources Center in Dunlap, Tenn. first began through assistance from another clinic located about 40 miles away by launching a satellite office. This center opened as a non-medical satellite in 2009 and in 2013 bought a building. In 2016, the center became known as Next Step Resources Center and launched as a medical clinic. The center provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, STD testing and treatment. The center also has a post abortion healing program. They see approximately 575 clients per year.

“I stayed late to complete the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project ultrasound grant the very day I heard about it,” said Debbie Chandler, executive director of Next Step Resources Center. “The machine we had was around 10 years old and I knew we could get better images for our clients. I had no idea how much better these images would be! Life and death and abundant life may all be determined by the image our clients see. Thank you to the ERLC for granting this ultrasound machine and training to Next Step. We are able to perform more scans each day because of this wonderful blessing.” 

ERLC staff will be present at the dedication service along with local pastors and Baptist associational leaders. 

“We are thrilled to partner alongside Full Circle Medical Center for Women and Next Step Resources Center and their incredible work,” said Elizabeth Graham, ERLC Vice President of Operations and Life Initiatives. “Through our partnership with the state of Tennessee in placing seven machines this fiscal year, I’m confident the hope of the gospel will continue to reach vulnerable women and preborn babies across this region. May we continue to advocate until abortion becomes illegal, unthinkable, and unnecessary across the world.”

The partnership between the ERLC’s Psalm 139 Project and Tennessee represents a total investment of $183,000 to place machines across the state. One hundred percent of financial contributions to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and training for their use.

One hundred percent of financial contributions designated to the Psalm 139 Project go toward purchasing ultrasound machines and providing training for workers. No Cooperative Program resources are used for these machines. Tax-deductible gifts may be made online to The Psalm 139 Project, or via check to ERLC, 901 Commerce Street, Nashville, Tenn., 37203. Learn more at

By / Dec 8

You may have seen the video that’s making the rounds through the internet after the Dobbs arguments. A group of presumably pro-choice women, vehemently protesting on the steps of the Supreme Court, recently took part in a demonstration wherein they each swallowed what were purported to be “abortion pills.” 

Did we just witness the intentional killing of four pre-born babies?

In our pro-life circles, there were, and continue to be, plenty of commentators. Some called it a form of religious worship; others, a sort of sacramental ceremony. And they’re right — this demonstration was without question an act of worship. But instead of merely pointing our fingers and diagnosing the problem — quote-tweeting from a safe distance — isn’t there a better way for us to engage with the issue and the people involved in it?

As those on both sides of the debate grow further apart and the conversation grows more militant, a piercing question hangs in the air: how will this divide ever be mended? 

Many don’t believe it will be. Some don’t even believe it can. Others just aren’t willing to do the work involved in rebuilding what’s been broken, preferring instead to wag their collective fingers and comment from afar. But how should Christians approach and seek to answer this question?  It’s really not all that complex. And we don’t need to look any further than the ministry of Jesus for our marching orders.

Jesus, friend of sinners

In the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke, readers are introduced to a supposedly derogatory phrase used to describe Jesus. Speaking to the crowds around him, Jesus repeats to them the charge that’s been levied against him: he is a “friend . . . of sinners” (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:34). While Jesus offers no immediate or explicit comment either for or against this accusation, Luke wants his reader to understand that this Pharisaic charge is true. But what the crowds and the Pharisees saw as evil, Jesus embraced as good (Gen. 50:20).

In the very next scene recorded by Luke, after being invited into one of the Pharisee’s homes, Jesus was approached by “a woman in the town who was a sinner” (Luke 7:37). While he was reclining at the table, presumably sharing a meal with “upright” and “clean” religious men, this woman — this sinner — descended on Jesus, fell before him, and spilled her tears and a jar of perfume on his feet. In response, the Pharisee who had invited him reiterated in his mind, with seeming disgust, that she was a sinner (Luke 7:39). Responding to this man’s thoughts, Jesus proceeded to tell a story, eventually commending this woman, declaring that her sins were forgiven, and charging her to “Go in peace” (Luke 7:50). 

While all the men around the table were clamoring for a spot in Jesus’s inner circle, it was the most unlikely character who left the table as his friend.

Christians, friends of sinners

In his book, Friend of Sinners: An Approach to Evangelism, Harvey Turner opens the first chapter with a powerful question: “Do you like sinners?” He goes on:

“I hear many Christians talking about personal holiness. They talk about being like Jesus, walking like Jesus, and following Jesus. But most Christians I know don’t love sinners like Jesus did. They don’t hang out with them, they don’t share the gospel with them, and they just plain don’t like them. But could it be that the process of becoming more holy includes hanging around those who are considered unholy?”

Jesus loved sinners, and still does. And not just that, but Jesus liked sinners, and still does. How else would we have been welcomed into the kingdom of God if Jesus hadn’t befriended us? 

So, what does all this have to do with the group of women standing on the steps in our nation’s capital, swallowing abortion-inducing pills for public viewing? After watching the video and surveying the large number of comments being offered by men and women who I greatly respect, and whose comments I mostly agree with, I couldn’t shake (and still can’t) this single question: what amount of progress might be made, in this conversation and others, if, instead of making an example of these women with our clever and incisive comments, we simply walked across the street and sought to befriend them?

Would the culture change overnight? Certainly not. But, little by little, as friendships are born “across enemy lines,” maybe the temperature of this heated debate would begin to lower, maybe pre-born babies lives would be saved from the prospect of abortion, and maybe, when confronted with the kindness of God’s people, “sinners” would be made disciples and be welcomed into eternal life with God. It is God’s kindness that leads men and women to repentance (Rom. 2:4). May God’s people go and do likewise.

“Our mission from Jesus,” Turner says, “is to make disciples of people who are not currently disciples (Matt. 28:18-20) . . . If we are not friends to sinners, we are not following him [Jesus].” 

Christians, befriended sinners

I suspect that part of the reason we find this so difficult is because we’ve forgotten some crucial things about our own pathway into God’s family, namely that Jesus has come and made friends with those of us who follow him (John 15:15). The “hound of heaven” chased us down, sinners though we were, and slathered us with lovingkindness.

Where were you when Jesus came and befriended you?

This should force us to ask a couple of questions. Are the steps of the Supreme Court off limits for Jesus to come and birth a new friendship? Are women with abortion drugs under their tongues too unclean for Jesus to welcome them, forgive them of their sins, and offer them the shalom of God? The answer to these questions is clearly no. So, why would we not follow in the way of Jesus and invite them into friendship with God by making friends with them ourselves? Can we expect to win them, and the persistent debate on life, any other way?

The people of God, regardless of where we find ourselves, have been given a new vocation: we are fishers of people, charged with going and making disciples of men and women, teaching them what it means to follow the one who says to them, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). We, imitating the God we worship, have been called to make friends with our enemies.

So, whether on the steps of the Supreme Court or the cubicle across the hall, may we, for the love of God and neighbor, have the courage to put down our commenting devices and go befriend someone into the kingdom of God. And, in the stead of our Savior, may we wear the label “friend of sinners” with joy.

By / Dec 2

The eyes of the nation are turned toward the Supreme Court this week as the Justices heard the oral arguments in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This is a pivotal moment regarding abortion rights in America. Never before has the Court seemed more likely to overturn Roe v. Wade than it does at this moment, and it could be decades before another chance like this arrives. Many articles will be able to better explain the legalities of this case. While it is important to consider what the Constitution says about abortion, it is even more important to consider what God says. Below is a brief overview of the Bible’s teaching on early human life.

What the Bible says about life

John and Jesus

The Bible is clear that all human beings are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26), that the wanton shedding human blood is deeply sinful (Gen. 9:6), and that life even at the earliest stages is precious (Ps. 139:13-16).  In the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke, we read of Mary, the mother of Jesus, going to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Luke tell us, 

In those days Mary set out and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judah where she entered Zechariah’s house and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she exclaimed with a loud cry: “Blessed are you among women, and your child will be blessed! How could this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For you see, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped for joy inside me” (Luke 1:39-44). 

This text tells us a few things. First, Elizabeth speaks of her child in terms indicating he is at that moment, in her womb, alive and worthy of being spoken of as a baby, not simply a potential life. He was a prophet from the womb as he was declaring that this was the Christ. Gabriel even tells Zechariah, John’s father, earlier in the chapter that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:15). 

The Greek word for “baby” in 1:41, 44 is brefoß (brephos). Luke (who, if you will recall, is a doctor) uses the same word to describe the infant, Jesus, in the next chapter during the narrative about the shepherds. He writes, “This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby (brefoß) wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger” (2:12). It is also the same word Luke uses in 18:15 to describe the infants (brefoß) that the people tried to bring to Jesus when the disciples sought to prevent them, and Jesus rebuked them.

Aside from what this text tells us about John, it says a great deal about the Lord as well. Both John and Elizabeth recognize that Jesus is, at this specific point in time, the Messiah. Luke 1:26 says Elizabeth conceived six months before Mary. Even if Elizabeth were nine months pregnant when this meeting took place, the furthest along that Mary could have been is around 12 weeks. This is well before the US Supreme Court’s litmus test of viability. When Roe v. Wade was handed down, this was believed to be around 28 weeks.

Job and David 

In Job 3, after seven days of sitting quietly on the ground in mourning with his friends, Job speaks and curses the day he was born because of the unthinkable suffering he had endured. He says, “May the day I was born perish, and the night that said, “A boy is conceived” (3:3). Job does not view the beginning of his existence from viability or from the moment he passed through the birth canal. He views the beginning of his life from the moment he was conceived, which has direct bearing on the abortion debate today. 

David says something similar in Psalm 51 when speaking to the depth of his sinfulness. He said, “Indeed, I was guilty when I was born; I was sinful when my mother conceived me” (51:5). David and Job did not see their own lives as coming after that which was conceived in the wombs of their mothers. Rather, they identify their beginning from the moment of their conception. 

Furthermore, David speaks of God’s work in fashioning him in his mother’s womb in Psalm 139. He says, 

For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began (139:13-16).

David is not speaking of his potential self in these verses. Clearly, he believes that what was in his mother’s womb was not merely a “product of conception” but rather himself as a formless, immature baby. He also indicates in 139:16 that while his days began at birth (that would be the counting of them as one would count a birthday) that his life and existence had already begun. 


Ultimately, human life is valuable because man is made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26). Man does not derive his own worth from inside himself but from his Creator. Abortion is such an egregious evil because the destruction of life made in his image is a destruction of the image of the holy, almighty, infinitely glorious, and eternally valuable God.

Abortion has caused the destruction of countless lives — inside and outside of the womb. Women who have had an abortion should not suffer alone. These women or those who believe that their only hope is to have an abortion should find safety, not ridicule, from those in the pro-life movement. Loving both mother and baby is the only acceptable option. Stopping the death of unborn babies is but one part of a holistic worldview that churches who promote life must have. This issue is one piece of a larger framework for creating healthy marriages and families and enabling the society around us to flourish.

Believers everywhere should pray for this week’s events at the Supreme Court. Pray that God will have mercy on our nation. Pray that the scourge of abortion will end. Pray that the sun will finally set on the great human rights crisis of our time. Pray that those made in God’s image will no longer have to be subject to instruments in the hands of abortion doctors. Pray that moms would be encouraged to embrace the unborn life inside of them. And pray that the right to life will prevail. 

By / Dec 1

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 1, 2021—Brent Leatherwood, acting president of The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, commented on today’s U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments for the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case.

“After listening to today’s proceedings, I’m left asking a simple question: What good is precedent if it is bad? At multiple points, whether it was, for example, the faulty reasoning of Justice Harry Blackmun in his Roe opinion or the irrelevance of the viability standard, it should be abundantly clear that the precedent in the area of abortion is completely unmoored from the Constitution itself. Furthermore, it completely disregards the individual whose rights are most affected: the preborn child. That cannot continue. Denying the dignity of our most vulnerable neighbors should not be a hallmark of American jurisprudence.

“While it is difficult to predict the ultimate outcome in any case by simply listening to oral arguments, the Court has before it a once-in-a-generation opportunity to dismantle the abortion framework that has built up following the decisions in both Roe and Casey. The Court should not hesitate to do so.”

The ERLC and other pro-life organizations filed an amicus brief in the Dobbs case earlier this year. Additionally, the ERLC has created an explainer on the case.

The ERLC will host a special online event, Monday, Dec. 6 at 10:00 a.m. EST, to further discuss Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization and how the case could affect the future of the prolife movement.